Sue Desmond-Hellmann, AP Images

Sue Desmond-Hell­mann says it's time for her to leave the Gates Foun­da­tion. Strat­e­gy chief Mark Suz­man will now take the helm

Su­san Desmond-Hell­mann, the long­time re­searcher and ex­ec­u­tive who helped lead Genen­tech to de­vel­op the first gene-tar­get­ed can­cer ther­a­pies, is step­ping down af­ter 5 years as CEO of the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion.

Step­ping down as CEO of@Gates­Foun­da­tion is, with­out a doubt, the tough­est de­ci­sion of my ca­reer,” she wrote in the first of a se­ries of tweets an­nounc­ing and re­flect­ing on her de­par­ture. “But one of my mantras is ‘take your own pulse first.’ Over the last few months, I’ve done just that and con­clud­ed that I need to slow down.”

Mark Suz­man

Mark Suz­man, the foun­da­tion’s pres­i­dent of Glob­al Pol­i­cy & Ad­vo­ca­cy and chief strat­e­gy of­fi­cer, will now take over as the new CEO. Suz­man joined the foun­da­tion 12 years ago and takes the new role of­fi­cial­ly on Feb­ru­ary 1, 2020.

Desmond-Hell­mann was named CEO of the mas­sive char­i­ty in 2013, af­ter years at the top of Genen­tech and a stint as the first woman chan­cel­lor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cis­co. She was the first physi­cian to lead the foun­da­tion and dur­ing her tenure launched what was billed as the first non­prof­it biotech, the Gates Med­ical Re­search In­sti­tute, a move she re­called as one of her top achieve­ments.

Re­cent­ly, the long­time re­searcher cut down on work out­side the foun­da­tion and said to­day she was leav­ing to fo­cus on her­self and her fam­i­ly.

Desmond-Hell­mann got her start in med­i­cine as a kid, hang­ing around and some­times book­keep­ing at the drug­store her par­ents owned in Reno, Neva­da. In lat­er years, she talked about how watch­ing her fa­ther in­ter­act kind­ly with the peo­ple who came in made her want to be­come a doc­tor. Af­ter she grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Neva­da, she took an in­tern job at UCSF in 1982, her for­ma­tive years as a physi­cian spent at the be­gin­ning and cen­ter of the AIDS/HIV cri­sis. Af­ter sev­er­al years work­ing on the virus and Ka­posi’s sar­co­ma, she and her hus­band — Nicholas Hell­mann, al­so a young UCSF doc­tor — moved to Ugan­da to do sim­i­lar work.

“We were ap­proached by the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion to study het­ero­sex­u­al HIV trans­mis­sion in Africa, so my hus­band Nick and I sold our Hon­da Civics, sub­let our apart­ment, and hopped on a plane,” she re­called to Reuters in Ju­ly. “We were ex­treme­ly iso­lat­ed. When we came back from Ugan­da, we nev­er com­plained about any­thing ever again.”

She fell in­to drug de­vel­op­ment two years af­ter they re­turned to Nicholas’ home state of Ken­tucky, when they both took po­si­tions at Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb in Con­necti­cut in 1993. She worked on Tax­ol, a chemother­a­py drug orig­i­nal­ly de­rived from Pa­cif­ic yew bark and first FDA-ap­proved short­ly be­fore her ar­rival.

“It was like I had been train­ing my whole life for that job,” Desmond-Hell­mann told the New York Times in 2011.

At the time, Genen­tech hadn’t de­vel­oped any can­cer drugs. The lega­cy biotech brought Desmond-Hell­mann back to San Fran­cis­co in 1995 to help build that pipeline and pro­mot­ed her to chief med­ical of­fi­cer the fol­low­ing year.

Arthur Levin­son, the CEO of Genen­tech dur­ing her tenure, de­scribed her to the New York Times as a shrewd ex­ec­u­tive, who was able to use her on­col­o­gy and sta­tis­ti­cal back­ground to choose the best drugs — and was al­so able to tell re­searchers when their projects weren’t be­ing cho­sen.

“She’s a very nice per­son, so this did not come nat­u­ral­ly to her,” Levin­son said. “But she got it quick­ly. She be­came a tough leader, tough in a pos­i­tive sense. She was will­ing to make tough calls with­out much dif­fi­cul­ty.”

Over 14 years at Genen­tech, she over­saw the de­vel­op­ment of Avastin and Her­ceptin, the first gene-tar­get­ed can­cer ther­a­pies.

She left the com­pa­ny when it was bought out by Roche in 2009, leav­ing as head of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, and soon went on to be­come chan­cel­lor of UCSF (where there was a brief con­tro­ver­sy over her to­bac­co in­vest­ments, which she im­me­di­ate­ly sold off.). She joined the Gates Foun­da­tion in 2014.

As CEO she over­saw a bevy of pub­lic health pro­grams and, in 2018, the launch of the Gates Med­ical Re­search In­sti­tute in Cam­bridge, MA, lur­ing ex­ec­u­tives from No­var­tis and Mer­ck and oth­er top biotech firms to fill out the lead­er­ship team.

The in­sti­tute launched with a bud­get of $100 mil­lion and tar­gets the Gates Foun­da­tion had long pur­sued: malar­ia, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, and di­ar­rheal dis­eases. The idea was to help di­rect­ly de­vel­op drugs that the mar­ket wasn’t in­cen­tiviz­ing, in­clud­ing a malar­i­al vac­cine. Their first big project is test­ing if a boost­er shot of Bacil­lus Cal­mette-Guérin, the tu­ber­cu­lo­sis vac­cine al­ready giv­en to in­fants, could help im­prove im­mu­ni­ty for ado­les­cents.

“What keeps me awake is we have all this cap­i­tal, we have all this op­por­tu­ni­ty and we bet­ter get some­thing done,” Desmond-Hell­mann told Forbes last year. “We bet­ter do some good in the world, or I will not feel good about lead­ing in the Gates Foun­da­tion.”

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Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

Amid mon­key­pox fears, biotechs spring to ac­tion; Mod­er­na’s CFO trou­ble; Cuts, cuts every­where; Craft­ing the right pro­teins; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye, but as Josh Sullivan goes off to new adventures we are grateful for the way he’s built up the Endpoints Manufacturing section — which the rest of the team will now carry forward. If you’re not already, this may be a good time to sign up for your weekly dose of drug manufacturing news. Thank you for reading and wish you a restful weekend.

Bay­er sounds re­treat from a $670 mil­lion CAR-T pact in the wake of a pa­tient death

Two months after Atara Biotherapeutics hit the hold button on its lead CAR-T 2.0 therapy following a patient death, putting the company under the watchful eye of the FDA, its Big Pharma partners at Bayer are bowing out of a $670 million global alliance. And the move is forcing a revamp of Atara’s pipeline plans, even as research execs vow to continue work on the two drugs allied with Bayer 18 months ago, which delivered a $60 million cash upfront.

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Martin Shkreli (Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch/IPX)

In­fa­mous biotech ex­ec Mar­tin Shkre­li gets out of prison, hits the street

Martin Shkreli, the infamous biotech CEO who made headlines for his jeering assault on a legion of critics in and out of Congress, is back on the streets after 4 years inside a federal penitentiary.

Shkreli’s attorney put out a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that the “pharma bro” had been transferred to a halfway house in New York with a few more months to go under federal custody, slated to end September 14. Attorney Benjamin Brafman acknowledged the release and vowed that he and Shkreli are keeping quiet.

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Sanofi and Re­gen­eron clear the fin­ish line in an in­flam­ma­to­ry esoph­a­gus dis­ease, leav­ing Take­da in the dust

With atopic dermatitis rivals breathing down Dupixent’s neck, Sanofi and Regeneron on Friday secured a first win in new territory in what Sanofi’s head of immunology and inflammation Naimish Patel called the fastest approval he’s ever seen.

The FDA approved Dupixent on Friday to treat patients 12 years and older with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory condition that causes swelling and scarring of the esophagus. The approval came just a couple months after regulators granted Dupixent priority review, and months ahead of its PDUFA date on Aug. 3.

Fu­ji­film con­tin­ues its biotech build­ing spree with new fa­cil­i­ty in Chi­na

A Japanese conglomerate is making a big play in China with the opening of a new facility, as it continues to expand.

Fujifilm Irvine Scientific has opened its new Innovation and Collaboration Center in Suzhou New District, China, an area in Jiangsu province specifically designated for technological and industrial development.

According to Fujifilm, the 12,000-square-foot site will be responsible for the company’s cell culture media optimization, analysis and design services. Cell culture media itself often requires customization of formulas and protocols to achieve the desired quantity and quality of therapeutic desired. Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is offering these services from its headquarters in California and Japan to its customers globally, as well as in China now.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

French pres­i­dent names Stéphane Ban­cel a Cheva­lier for Mod­er­na's Covid tri­umph

Moderna’s rapid fire development of its hugely successful mRNA vaccine for Covid saved lives, changed the vaccine industry forever and made CEO Stéphane Bancel a billionaire. But perhaps the sweetest reward came this week, when Bancel was named a Chevalier — basically knighted — by the president of France.

Prestigious European titles like this are rare in biopharma, but not unknown, as AstraZeneca’s Mene Pangalos could tell you after being knighted by the Queen, named on the honors list in 2020 for his contribution to science.

Try­ing to shake up the Parkin­son's par­a­digm, Ab­b­Vie sub­mits NDA for con­tin­u­ous, 24-hour in­fu­sion ther­a­py

AbbVie is approaching the FDA with a new therapy to potentially treat Parkinson’s disease, using prodrugs of two medications commonly used for the condition.

The Big Pharma submitted its NDA for ABBV-951, a solution of levodopa and carbidopa prodrugs being evaluated in advanced Parkinson’s patients who don’t respond well to oral therapy, AbbVie announced Friday morning. Researchers are hoping a positive Phase III study that reads out in late October will help move things along quickly at the agency.

Siddhartha Mukherjee (Brian Ach/Getty Images for The New Yorker)

All Blue's $733M bid to ac­quire Zymeworks turns hos­tile as board bat­tles back — af­ter a biotech celebri­ty jumps in

Yesterday, the team at All Blue Capital — bent on the takeover of a badly battered Zymeworks — brought in celebrated oncologist, Pulitzer prize-winning writer and biotech exec Siddhartha Mukherjee to add some glitz to their proposed board. But they’re still not winning over any converts.

This morning, Zymeworks’ board officially turned this acquisition offer into a hostile showdown, rejecting the unsolicited offer and marshaling its forces to prevent a buyout at $10.50 per share.

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